Rich Tea or Hob Nob?

biscuit mindsetIt’s been a great week at DHS.  We started off on Monday with an INSET thinking about how we can develop a growth mindset with our students.  By that we mean students who will:

  • Strive for excellence
  • Embrace the challenges
  • Persist in the face of difficulties
  • Understand that success requires hard work and effort
  • Learn from feedback
  • Be inspired by the excellence of others

Andy Tharby got us thinking about this in terms of ‘responsive differentiation’.  The general idea around this, can be summed up by the following diagram:

responsive differentiation

Essentially, Andy was saying that what we should be doing as teachers is setting the bar of expectation high for all students, monitoring them throughout the lesson, identifying when students are struggling and then intervening in some way to help get them ‘unstuck’.  The skill is to not intervene too early – a degree of struggling and having to grapple with ‘hard learning’ is a good thing and essential for building resilience.  Similarly we need to be aware of when to push students on e.g. student A will need close monitoring and pushing on beyond the bar.  The sort of intervention could be:

  • A glance to get them refocused
  • Pointing them in the direction of a resource e.g. dictionary, text book etc
  • Asking them a question to move on their thinking….and then expecting them to respond.
  • Modelling a response with them
  • Providing them with a sentence starter
  • Using the work of one of their peers to get them started
  • etc etc

The key message is that the best teachers expect all of their students to do well, whilst understanding that different students will require different approaches to help them get there.  This involves close and careful monitoring of the students and making sure that they all have just enough challenge to get them to the bar…..and beyond.  A much better approach than the madness of 6 levels/ colours of worksheet and other unsustainable gimmicky strategies we’ve been led to believe work . Read more in Andy’s blog on ‘Responsive Differentiation’.

Another couple of great articles on differentiation:

Following this, Lucy Darling spoke about the importance of modelling. In a nutshell, the message from Lucy was:

“Are we modelling what we want our students to do, in such a way that they will be able to do it well themselves, with an increasing degree of independence and excellence?”

Lucy summed up her approach to modelling with the following:

modelling lucy

This reiterated the importance of modelling in teaching – the art of deconstructing what students need to do and why with them, and then co-constructing together.  Done well, this takes time, but it’s essential if students are going to be able to go on and work with a growing degree of independence.  Read more here and here.

Since Monday, a number of staff have shared some simple approaches they will be implementing to develop more of a growth mindset with their students. A brief summary follows:


“I have started showing students ‘end goals’ for topics. For example ‘By the end of this topic you will be able to solve 8(x + 1) = 2(x + 16)’.

This has worked really well especially with my year 8 students who are very determined to keep improving until they can answer the ‘end goal’ question.”

Sam Down

“Things I’m going to focus on in lessons:

1)      More student demonstrations. Particularly when a student succeeds in a challenge that was difficult to them. Not particularly the best performer, but to show how one has overcome something that was difficult to them. They also talk to the class about how they overcome the challenge to them and what they are aiming to do to improve that skill further.

2)      Getting the students to applaud the performer(s). I already use this in gymnastics and it really encourages a sense of respect for the performance and helps create a positive working environment for all. Students then are more positive and confident about performing in front of their peers.”

Pat Sculley

“1) At the end of a lesson, have students write a “Where I was at the beginning of the lesson ________________. Where I was at the end of the lesson: _____________________” in their books to show the progress they’ve made.

2) Using the lollypop stick technique to pick out a student to answer a question, if you get a “No I can’t do it”, then sticking with them and questioning them to elicit the correct answer and remind them they can do it.”

Matt Fairbairn

“Some lessons, I limit the amount of questions students are allowed to ask to just 2. It prevents knee-jerk questions like “what do I do/what do I write” and fosters an atmosphere of independence, accompanied by the implicit message to students that you think they can do this.”

Kate Bloomfield

“I am starting to set a type of hwk that I have never set before.

We have fortnightly standardised hwks for the department which is based around consolidation of class learning and with which we focus our formative feedback. But in the in-between hwks, we choose what we set our students.

I am designing some pre-learning hwks which consist of 5 or so questions about the next topic that will be coming up. I can then use these as AfL to know how better to pitch my lessons.

I am hoping that students will research / think about / discuss with their friends ideas that I haven’t yet introduced.

I am hoping that they will realise the more they research/ask, the easier the lessons will become for them, hopefully encouraging a cycle of effort/confidence/progression/engagement/effort ….and promote independence.

We’ll see what happens?!”

Emma McCann

fixed growth

So what does all this have to do with Rich Tea or Hob Nob biscuits?  It’s about what we do as teachers, to develop the sort of students we want – those with a growth mindset.  Students who are resilient, gritty and prepared to keep going, even when the going is tough….not students who just give up and don’t believe in their own ability.  And that reminded me of this clip from a certain Mr Kay:

Another highlight of the week was Gav McCusker’s first slot in the 15 minute forum spotlight.  Gav didn’t disappoint and led a brilliant session on a writing technique he has been developing called ‘layered writing’.  More here.

A great week, capped off today with Andy Tharby getting a thoroughly well deserved mention in The Guardian.  Great work Andy.

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2 Responses to Rich Tea or Hob Nob?

  1. Pingback: Becoming a growth mindset school | Teaching: Leading Learning

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